Facebook Gifting plus a whole lot more.

April 8, 2014

I recently launched a set of Facebook related features accessed from the Facebook icon on the menu bar. Gifting, messages, friends, invites and events are all social features made possible by linking Sherwood Dungeon to Facebook. As more and more players in your Sherwood friends list also connect to Facebook, the power of these features will become more apparent. They include:

These are intended to provide an easy way to invite Facebook friends who have not tried Sherwood. Once sent, invites are visible on the Facebook News Feed. It's a tool to help you grow the game. If you enjoy Sherwood Dungeon, let the world know!

Facebook Friend Requests
If you want to stay in touch outside the game, you can use this to send a Facebook friend request to players in your Sherwood Dungeon friends list.

Facebook Messages
Facebook messages can be sent to players in your friends list. With the popularity of Facebook mobile phone apps you can reach out to Sherwood friends anywhere, even when they are not at their computers. If you need reinforcements for a surprise raid or want a friend to meet you in the game, the messaging feature can come in handy.

Facebook Gifting
This is a very cool new feature launched on April 7, 2014. Any weapon, shield, ring or amulet can now be sent as a gift to players in your friends list. If they are online and popups are enabled in the options panel, the gift is sent instantly. Otherwise the gift will be waiting for the next time they log in.


This allows you to create Facebook events, useful for organizing meeting times for tournaments, clan meetings or socials within the game. Facebook sends out reminders for the events automatically and allows you to manage the invite list.

As these feature are social, they will only become truly useful once the other players on your friends list also begin using them. A certain level of critical mass will be necessary, so encourage others on your friends list to connect Sherwood to Facebook. Popups need to be enabled in your web browser to see the Facebook login and permissions window.

With 60,000 Facebook fans on our Sherwood page, there is clearly players using Facebook. My intention was to leverage as many Facebook features as possible to keep the Sherwood community strong both inside and outside the game. These new social features can help bridge the gap between the connections we make inside the game and the friendships we have in the real world.


Sherwood Combat is not like other MMO's.

July 21, 2012

If you are play Sherwood Dungeon with preconceptions created by playing traditional MMO's, you may find the combat system a little unusual at first. Sherwood is a skill based action game, which means every attack and defense move must be input in real-time by the player. While there are skills that players learn as they gain levels, there is no skill bar and no auto-attack. There is, however, much more to combat than tossing punches. There are three basic attack types any player begins with: the attack, the block, and the amulet (which can only be used once a player has equipped a talisman or amulet). Many new players begin by taking blocking and defense for granted. This is, perhaps, a result of a culture of traditional MMO games that have taught us that defensive maneuvers are only necessary when we are losing badly. Sherwood, however, is not so gentle and defense is very important.

Most traditional MMO's do not generally put much emphasis on blocking attacks, however in Sherwood being able to defend is of critical importance. Always using a full-out offensive is a strategy doomed to failure. The character and monster animations in Sherwood are not just for show. Use them to time your blocks with your opponent's attacks. If you successfully block an attack, you earn double damage on your next attack. It's also important to note that you do not heal while attacking, but you do heal while blocking. This allows for a player loosing a fight to play defense to get back to even terms. Just like in boxing or martial arts, Sherwood combat is designed to always leave open the possibility of a last minute comeback. Combat alternates between attacking and blocking, trying to time your attacks to when your opponent is open and blocking your opponent's attacks to earn double damage on the next round.

Talisman / Amulet Attacks
You may run into some players who tend to block too much during PVP. For these users, keep in mind that amulet attacks (or "tallys" as the players call them) do double damage against blocks. With practice you can surprise your opponent with a quick amulet attack when they least suspect it, hiding them in a series of other attacks and blocks. These normally do about fifty percent more damage than a regular attack, but be careful because your opponent's attack can do double damage if it hits during an amulet attack. Your blue mana bar will need to recharge between each amulet attack.

Power Moves
At XP level 3 you will begin to earn the first of six Power Moves. These can do up to fifty percent more damage than regular attacks. Combine these with the double damage from a successful block on the previous round and power moves can be devastating. Your green energy bar will need to recharge between each power move.

The beauty of this combat system is one of Sherwood's most appealing features: action combat requires skill, timing, patience, and forethought, even against MOBs. Playing only offensively through attack spamming, or rushing through battles, will result in defeat. Proper timing and reaction to a fight, on the other hand, can leave a player ending a fight with full health, besting even harder enemies without breaking a sweat. Skill is king!

Is Sherwood Dungeon a WOW clone?

March 20, 2011

Our Sherwood Facebook fan page has largely taken the place of the developer diary in the last three years because the player feedback is much more immediate. My last DD entry here was back in 2008 and obviously a great deal has happened since then in terms of updates to the game and news of our success.  Recently a player on our Facebook page made the assertion that all fantasy MMOs, including Sherwood Dungeon, are basically clones of World of Warcraft. "Them�s fightin� words!" It seemed like great topic for a developer diary entry.

Let�s start with the obvious. Although we�ve both had numerous updates, Sherwood was launched in August 2004, three months prior to World of Warcraft. It�s pretty hard to be a clone of a game that launches AFTER yours. Now I could be cheeky and say that makes them a clone of us, but that�s not really true either. Even at the most basic level we are very different.

First a little game design history lesson. WOW is the most successful of an entire genre of traditional fantasy MMOs that can trace it�s roots back to early text based MUDs and then arguably back further to pen and paper role playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. When WOW was launched it was accused of being a clone of Everquest. One of the keys to their success was to follow the same basic formula as Everquest, but to improve on it by using quests more effectively to guide the player though the game and tune the experience so that solo players could still succeed. Everquest itself was largely based on the text based MUD (Multi-user Dungeon) Diku. It was so similar, in fact, that three of the Everquest programmers signed a sworn statement denying any source code was shared between the two games. Raph Koster, former Chief Creative Officer for Sony Online Entertainment and makers of EQ said, �...the line of inheritance from Diku to EQ and thence to WoW is completely undeniable. In the end, the central elements of phase-based combat, combat states, cool-down based special attacks, tank-healer-nuker triad, and basic aggro management are what you play today in WoW.� Long time players probably know already that I�m big fan of Raph and his musings. Most current MMOs follow this same basic formula. Sherwood Dungeon, however, does not. Really, we don�t!

The vast majority of traditional fantasy MMO's use a psedo-turn based approach to combat. In those games, most attacks have cool-down periods that give players time to make a strategic choice for the next attack. As players level, their �skill� tree expands and those choices become increasingly complex. They are rewarded largely based on the hours dedicated to the game and their ability to crunch numbers. This makes the traditional MMO more of a cerebral strategy based game than a truly action oriented one.

�Skill� in Sherwood means something entirely different. It�s not a reward your character earns in the game based on stats, it�s what happens to YOU when you practice and develop your muscle memory and reflexes. We break from convention and focus more on an action RPG style of melee combat based on a set of moves that every player in the game has. My intention was to make PVP combat similar to Street Fighter, where timing and practice count but XP Level does not. In this way any player is a potential opponent for any other player and you're never running around looking for opponents of the same XP Level. We don�t have character classes so there is no tank, DPS, healer trinity. This makes Sherwood�s combat easy to learn, but because timing is so important a player with skill always has the advantage.

Rogue-type games like Net-Hack are a big influence on the procedurally generated dungeon and world building in Sherwood. Thus our DNA is really the shotgun marriage of Net-Hack and Street Fighter. In practice, however, the pace and flow of PVP combat in Sherwood feels more like a boxing match than Street Fighter. It is absolutely possible for a talented low level player to defeat a high level player. If you�re trying to play Sherwood as if it�s based on World of Warcraft then you�re going to have your ass handed to you by the first player you meet who understands this is not a psudo-turn based or phase-based based game and that XP levels alone do not make you a hero. You have to time your blocks, look for openings based on what your opponent is doing and develop your own style. Talent, skill and timing counts here.



Sherwood Dungeon on Facebook

October 13, 2008

I've create a Sherwood Dungeon game page on Facebook. If you become a fan, I will be posting updates from time to time. Honestly I haven't sorted out all the ways we might use the Events, Photo Album and Discussion Board, but have a look.

Sherwood Dungeon on Facebook

Stone Circles and Knightly Virtues

October 6, 2008

It was with a great sense of relief that I was able to finally launch pets in Sherwood on September 19. This was the final feature planned in a whole series of changes that started ten months ago. The finicky nature of the work, with major server and database changes and the implementation of a payment scheme meant while much was happening behind the scenes, little of that was visible to you. Now that the groundwork has been set, I'm optimistic about the year ahead.

On October 2nd, I launched Stone Circle Island. It contains a structure obviously inspired by Stonehenge. I was forced to take some creative liberties from the original Stonhenge design. After removing some standing stones to leave room for the arena, increasing the overall size and changing the relative scale of the five inner monuments I decided that calling it Stone Circle would be more appropriate. The Stone Circle Seer has a few challenges for you, including the Wolf Pack Leader, one of the most difficult creatures in Sherwood. I wanted to put this new content up shortly after the launch of pets to send the message that I am committed to continue releasing free content.

Sherwood is born from an independent spirit and it's truly unique among online worlds. We are everything the big game companies are not.  Viral and grassroots, we defy the odds and survive in an industry that eats small game developers for breakfast. Hopefully this means that as a Sherwood player, you feel you're a part of something special.  We live or die on word of mouth so email, text or MSN your friends about Sherwood.  Put a link on your Facebook, MySpace or personal website.  I would like to extend my thanks to those webmasters who have created the amazing variety of Sherwood fan, guild and help sites that exist online today.

My focus has been on creating the setting for your online adventures, however Sherwood is something beyond that. It's a place where we suspend disbelief and exist in a world that doesn't exist; a place where graphics and imagination meet.  You are the most important part of Sherwood because it's ultimately the citizens that define this place.  What kind of a place do you want it to be?  When I see the leadership of various groups like the Sherwood Amazons, who promote and support values like tolerance and inclusiveness, the idea of bringing together an online community of like-minded players becomes more than just some guy making an MMO in his basement. Sherwood needs guilds, clans and organizations that support knightly virtues of chivalry, honor, courage and nobility.  In Medieval England, knights had to swear to the code which asked them to "protect the weak, defenseless, and helpless, and fight for the general welfare of all."  Sherwood should be a place where all players feel welcome.  I need your help building this community because that part of Sherwood that isn't bits and bytes is very much in your hands.


Pet and Mounts Released Today

September 19, 2008

I'm finally ready to launch the pets and mounts feature. I'm doing a soft launch, under a new URL:


This provides me with the opportunity to catch any last minute bugs I may have missed without the entire population of Sherwood affected. In about a week, this version of Sherwood will replace the one at play.html and become the default.

PayPal is the only method of payment accepted for pets right now. I'm working on adding new options. If you don't have access to a Visa or Mastercard, you can use a Coinstar machine at many grocery stores to get a prepaid Green Dot Master Card. These are at over 65,000 locations world wide. You can use the Green Dot card with PayPal - www.coinstar.com

Crossing my fingers, knocking on wood - We should be good to go. Once we get through this launch, I'll put up another diary entry and let you in on what I've got planned next. Remember, Pets expire one year from the date of purchase. 


Pets and Mounts: Mid Term Status Report.  

July 25, 2008

I've received numerous requests for a status report on the pets and mounts. As expected, it's been a daunting challenge but work is progressing very well. All of the models, animation and Shockwave code is complete. However, pets and mounts require fairly substantial game server and database updates and this work is currently in progress. I'm not going to commit to a launch date for pets yet but I suspect it will be in September. Enough is complete now to provide more detailed information:

A pet menu button will be added to the equipment bar where you can shop for new pets or summon pets that you already own. There are four pet types: Horse, Wolf, Dragon and Spider. They cost $5 US dollars each or you can get all four at once for $15. Pets expire after one year of use. At launch, payment will be handled through PayPal and they accept most major credit cards. I recognize that a percentage of players do not have access to a credit cards and I will be working on adding additional payment methods after launch, including Premium SMS. Pets are only available to players with membership accounts. They are locked to a single account and cannot be transferred between accounts.

Once purchased, the pet menu includes their expiry date, a summon button and an option to change the pet's name. With the exception of the horse, other players can see the name of your pet over it's head. The horse provides an extra 50% movement speed and can be used anywhere, including the dungeon. The horse does not participate in combat and you dismount automatically when you press the <Ctrl> key to swing your weapon. The horse disappears when you dismount, however you can summon it again at anytime from the pet menu.

The pet dragon is the smallest dragon in the game, but it include a new set of flying animations. The dragon hovers beside you in flight as you walk around. The other pets walk beside you, doing their best to avoid obstacles. They will fight any enemy that attacks you and aid in combat. Although pets will appear to attack during PVP, they cannot damage other players. Similarly, other players cannot damage your pets. This maintains the integrity of the game, ensuring players cannot purchase an advantage over other players during PVP. Pets provide 15% extra damage during combat with AI monsters or MOBs(PVE). Their attack speed is fairly high and they continue to attack as you block or cast amulet attacks. As a result, pets are an effective ally during combat. Pets are soul-locked to their master and share the same health bar. They die when you are defeated in combat and respawn when you do.

Guild or Rank Tags

In today's Sherwood update, I included an option to insert a guild, clan or rank tag under your name and visible to other players. This is available by pressing the "Change Guild / Rank" button in the Character Options Menu. Guilds and ranks are not technically features of the game, rather they emerged from the player community along with the many guild and clan websites. Putting the rank and guild name into your user name worked reasonably well before we had membership accounts but user names are locked for members and cannot be changed. With this new feature you no longer need to sign up for a new account every time your guild promotes you - just change your guild tag.  Because pets are locked to user accounts and cannot be transferred, do not use account names or user names that include ranks or guild names because you may want to change them later. This new feature provides a better way to deal with rank or guild changes.


The Future of Sherwood.  

May 15, 2008

If your reading this, you�ve discovered the new website for Sherwood Dungeon. You�re also likely aware of the account system that was introduced to the game a week ago.  These are the latest pieces in a series of planned updates that included the new avatars, gladiator arena and rune crafting. I wanted a fantasy feel from the moment you got to this site; like opening the cover of a fantasy novel. While MaidMarian.com needs to be a portal for all of the games, SherwoodDungeon.com is unapologetically medieval fantasy. The design and art came together in a way that matches the original vision for the game.

The account system has been a success, with 50,000 players becoming members in the first week. I didn�t want to loose the benefits of being able to login quickly without registration, however there are clear advantages to being able to access your character from other computers and being able to reserve a character name. The new system accommodates both quick entry without registration and accounts for players who sign up for membership. This also opens up new possibilities for the future of Sherwood.

Sherwood Dungeon is one of the only medieval fantasy MMOs that is sustained solely on advertising revenue. I�ve made an effort to keep these ads as unobtrusive as possible and they�ve helped keep Sherwood free over the years. With changing market environments, ad revenue can be very volatile. It also leaves us in the ironic position that it�s the advertisers, rather than the players, who are the real customers. I�ve known for quite while that for Sherwood to continue to grow, we will need to make some changes. I looked at some of the things other games are doing, like premium subscriptions and virtual items or currency. I didn�t like the idea of making a new island or dungeon and having to decide whether everybody gets access to it, or just paid subscribers. There are also many free games where you are forced to purchase virtual items in order to accomplish anything of value in the game. I needed to come up with something that maintained the integrity of the game, but also ensured sustainability for the future.

After weighing out all the options for many months, I�ve come to a decision. In the coming months you will have the option to purchase a mount or pet for your character. I�m planning on introducing a pet wolf and horse during the summer. These will be available for $5.00 US each and will remain with your character for one year.  There is still work to do on these two features, but I�m taking the unusual step of announcing my plans today so you know what to expect. All other Sherwood features, current and future, will remain free for the foreseeable future.


The addition of mounts and pets will ensure that Sherwood has the resources for continued growth and vitality in the future. You can see from the home page that some of the new art for the website includes the horse and wolf. I�m also including a few images of the game models to give you an idea of how they might look in the game. I hope this is greeted by Sherwood players with enthusiasm, but I am also well aware of the community's feelings and I'm striving to meet your expectations to the best of my abilities.


The Isle of Heroes.  

March 31, 2008

I'm still working through my New Year's list for Sherwood. I hope you're enjoying the updates, because I'm sure having fun making them. I added the new Viking and Female Ranger avatars in February to increase choice and variety of characters. You'll likely notice I am avoiding Dwarves, Elves and Orcs for now. I'm settling on a spot between extremes of fantasy and medieval historical fiction that feels right for Sherwood. Colleagues of mine indicated that traditional Lord of the Rings' races might be a bad fit. I've considered Dwarves however they are often portrayed as stout Vikings with Norse inspired lore. Although I ended up taking liberties with their appearance and armor, Vikings have the burly bearded look I wanted along with historical precedence. The female ranger was inspired by Maid Marian from the Robin Hood stories. In the years of working on these games I've drifted away from the Robin Hood legends with Sherwood Dungeon but Maid Marian's spirit and character continues to influence the game.

The other major update is the addition of the Isle of Heroes. This new island, with it's palm trees and sandy beaches, contains an gladiator arena inspired by the Roman Colosseum. The Arena Master NPC can summon a dragon or a squad of fellow soldiers in your team color to engage in combat against a gang of enemy warriors. This way you can get involved in a larger battle scenario without having to organize a group of players. The portal to the Isle of Heroes is located at the top of the tower in Sherwood Castle. Since I had to add the portal anyway, I took the opportunity to improve and add details to the tower.

The key to this update was improving combat and AI so that MOBs can find and fight each other. A mob (Mobile Object) is a type of non-player character (NPC) or monster that has the ability to move around. MOBs can now be members of the same team colors that players are members of. They can also be members of their own team, like the monsters in the dungeon. They are aware of who is an enemy and who is a friend so if you change team colors near a MOB teammate they will turn on you immediately. You can probably imagine some of the future scenarios and game play that become possible with this change and why I thought it was worth the work.

I've always found game AI (artificial intelligence) to be one of the most amazing parts of the job. Sometimes MOBs exhibit behaviors that I didn't anticipate and personality quirks emerge. Although Sherwood's AI is similar to systems used in other games (A-star path-finding, basic attack, wander, run-away and grouping behaviors) it is fundamentally the same as what I used for Ratinator. You can fool around with path-finding and AI directly in Ratinator's design mode. You can pick game elements or enemies to add from the menu and use your yellow cursor on the grid to create in that location. Just go to Level Design from the main menu, add some enemy monsters under Enemies, a few walls under Game Items and use Move Enemies to move the monsters around with the cursor and see the path-finding. The Scarab Beetles are one of my favorite enemies in Ratinator because they attack for four seconds and then run away for two seconds and then repeat. Press Try Level in design mode to try your creation out.

Raph Koster, an industry veteran and thought-leader in virtual worlds and MMOs, said some nice things about my work in a presentation at GDC Prime. He included this chart of MMOs with the highest estimated active users. He was making the point that of the top 13 most trafficked MMOs in Europe and North America, World of Warcraft was the only traditional boxed game available from a retail store on that list. All of the rest of the games on that list are either played in a browser or downloadable. I was ecstatic just to make the chart in 13th place. (Actually MaidMarian.com gets more traffic than ToonTown, so let's call it 12th place.) Considering how much I enjoyed and was influenced by retail boxed games like Everquest and Everquest II, Ultima Online, Lord of the Rings Online and Star Wars Galaxies, to have passed them all in active users is mind blowing. And as usual, I have you to thank.


A new beginning.

February 5, 2008

I've been reminded twice by players that it's time to post another diary entry. I'm off to San Francisco in a week for the Game Developers Conference, so now is the time. MaidMarian.com continues to reach more and more players. We experienced a bit of a drop in early January, however that's normal after Christmas and after another record high of 1.8 million unique monthly players, rumours of our demise are greatly exaggerated. I added two more servers, bringing the total to 11. You can check the five year pattern at Alexa.com:


After releasing Club Marian in September, focus shifted back to Sherwood Dungeon. I came up with a preliminary list of features that were needed to bring the game to another level. The changes you are seeing are just beginning. I received some very vocal criticism from the women of Sherwood about the Female Warrior. I wanted strong characters that would resonate with players and apparently the female avatar was just not there yet. After generating a list of changes and getting the updates in, feedback on the new updated look with a choice of hair styles is overwhelmingly positive - so thanks for your help. One of my goals is to create an MMO adapted to the web but with the 3D graphics and visual impact of a boxed product. Just being the best looking 3D MMO in a web browser is not good enough. In particular I want the avatars to hold their own against well known, mainstream MMORPGs. Although naturally there is going to be some bias, for the first time with the characters I feel like we're reaching that goal. As far as I'm concerned, there's no technical reason why a browser based MMO can't look as good graphically as a boxed one and I'm going to keep pushing for this in all areas of the game.

Crafting and blacksmithing is something I've wanted in Sherwood for a long time. Those ideas morphed into the Runes and Scrolls system you now see in the game. It's basically a collecting and combining game mechanic, where you use runes to envoke the magic of a Scroll of Summoning to craft magic weapons. Originally I was going to have players spell the Old English translations for words like "Sword" or "Axe", however the symbolic circular pattern of runes that I used created more of a feeling of alchemy, magic and mystery. Runes have a fascinating history in Viking, Germanic and Old English lore. Have a look:


I increased the number of inventory slots from 16 to 25. This was planned for a while, however the Runes and Scrolls system forced the issue. A reduction in icon size was required to create the 5x5 slot grid on the inventory. This turned out to be more work than I anticipated as almost all other screens in the user interface were also affected.

So what else is planned? You'll have to wait and see, however this year will mark a turning point for both the game and the company. Some of the changes may take you by surprise and will, with luck, be more fundamental to Sherwood's future than just new features. It's time to put my game face on.

Other random stuff:

I just started kick boxing. Wow am I ever terrible. My avatar can kick, what's wrong with me? I also play ice hockey twice a week. I'm not great at that either but I'm Canadian, so it's in the blood. My parents are Dutch (Mom) and Hungarian (Dad) so I enjoy the popularity of the games in both Western and Eastern Europe. And a big hello to the huge numbers of visitors MaidMarian.com gets from Poland! My wife's father was from Poland. She quit her job to join this crazy company as CFO about a year ago. If your curious about where players come from, check this out.....

Only the ten countries with the highest traffic levels are shown. If you country is not there, your in the 29.99% grey area that represents the rest of the world. Cool eh? I've always been blown away by how evenly balanced the traffic is around the world. The word on Sherwood is spreading because of you, so keep recruiting those friends! And thank you for continuing to support the games.